Car Accident 101
Most drivers have had to interact with a mechanical shop. What many people may not be so familiar with is collision repair. You may go decades without having an accident, and that’s a good thing! But when it does, unfortunately, happen, it puts you in an awkward and confusing position. “Who do I call first?” “Will my insurance company raise my rates?” “How long with this take?”
These are all reasonable questions. So, here are a few facts and tips to help you or someone you know.
- Most importantly: according to New Jersey law, you have the right to take your vehicle to ANY LICENSED REPAIR SHOP YOU CHOOSE! Insurers cannot ‘steer’ you toward their own shops for their financial benefit. And they cannot penalize you for exercising your LEGAL RIGHT! So, if your company says that you must or should select from their list or they say they will not cover the damage, IT’S AGAINST THE LAW. Your car, your choice!
- Who do I call first? The first call should to the local police. The best way to protect yourself against false liability claims or unwarranted insurance surcharges is to have police there so that a report can be made. If the other party suggests police not be called, that’s a red flag! That other party may not be licensed or insured. If you or the other party are worried about insurance premiums going up, don’t be. The police do not notify the insurers directly. Only when claims are generated do these reports come in to play. More on that in a minute.
- Who is at fault? Well, this may get complicated, but remember this: the police are not necessarily the final determination on fault. The insurance companies will make that call, and your input will have much to do with it. So, be thorough and clear with all parties.
- Will my rates go up? If I had a nickel…The truth is I don’t know. Insurance companies have a lot of discretion in how they rate their customer’s premiums. Traditionally, comprehensive claims, like vandalism or deer hits, did not impact your rates at all. But there has been a disturbing trend with some insurers towards increasing rates for every type of incident. It’s important to screen your insurance carriers about this before you commit to a policy.
- What’s next? Well, after police arrive and handle the situation immediately after the accident, your next step is to call us. We can help you navigate through the decisions of which insurance company you will report your claim to (if you were the victim, it might be through the other party.) We can also help you call in your claim so that all the vital information can be recorded, like claims adjuster contact info, claim number, vehicle inspection date and time and car rental set up. This will make your experience go far more smoothly. Also, it affords you the option to have the claims adjuster inspect your vehicle at our shop. This is beneficial to you, as it allows the adjuster more access to view damage underneath and behind panels. This becomes far more difficult in a driveway or parking lot, and may slow down your claims processing.
- How long will this take? Well, I can’t answer this accurately in a blog post. But on average, our repair turnaround time is 5-10 days. Our ability to repair your car quickly is impacted by some external factors you should consider: parts availability, insurance company claims processing, adjuster availability and severity of the damage.
- What do I owe? Typically, with insurance claims through your own carrier, you will owe the deductible. This is a predetermined amount of money ‘deducted’ for the amount of the repair cost. If the claim is through the other party’s insurance, you will not be responsible for a deductible. And, obviously, any out-of-pocket work is just that – out of your pocket.
Considering our recent storm, I figured this might be of particular importance right now. Of course, we’re here from Monday to Saturday, and we can answer any questions you have.